SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Carl Rommel

  • Overview
  • Teaching
  • Research

Overview

Biography

I am a social anthropologist with a specialism in contemporary Egypt. I have lived in Cairo on and off since 2007, and I conducted long-term ethnographic fieldwork in the Egyptian capital between 2011 and 2013. I am currently working on a book project in which I trace transformations within the emotional politics of Egyptian football before and after the 2011 Revolution (see Research).

Between 2001 and 2007, I completed dual degrees in Sociotechnical Engineering and the History of Science and Ideas at Uppsala University, Sweden. After a year of Arabic Studies in Cairo, I moved on to SOAS, where I earned my MA in Migration and Diaspora Studies (2009) and PhD in Social Anthropology (2015). After graduating, I have held research fellowships at Zentrum Moderner Orient in Berlin and the Walter Benjamin Kolleg at the University of Bern. I have also taught Social Anthropology as an external lecturer at the Free University in Berlin.

My Research Associate position at SOAS is funded by an external grant from the Camel Trust.

Publications

- Rommel, Carl (2016) “Troublesome Thugs or Respectable Rebels: Class, martyrdom and Cairo’s revolutionary Ultras” Middle East – Topics & Arguments, 6, 33-42, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17192/meta.2016.6.3788.

- Rommel, Carl (2014) “A Veritable Game of the Nation: On the changing status of football within the Egyptian national formation in the wake of the 2009 World Cup qualifiers against Algeria” Critical African Studies, 6(2-3), 157-175, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/21681392.2014.936079.

- Rommel, Carl (2011) “Playing with difference: Football as a performative space for division among Suryoye migrants in Sweden” Soccer & Society, 12, 850-864, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14660970.2011.609684.

Teaching

Research

My research is guided by an interest in how large-scale socio-political transformations take hold in the intimate domains of human beings: affect, embodiment and subjectivity. My regional specialisation is the Middle East, in particular Egypt, where I have lived in periods since 2007, and where I conducted fieldwork in the wake of the 2011 Revolution. Thematically, my research has up until now been focused on the socio-cultural world of football. Whereas anthropology has never made this topic a major field of study, in many ways it is an archetypical anthropological research object: a cultural phenomenon with global outreach and appeal, which reverberates locally through nationalism, migration, big businesses, state bureaucracies, media technologies, health and the emotional-embodied everyday. As my research illustrates, football offers a productive prism through which to examine links between, on the one hand, politics, state and nation, and on the other, subjectivity, affect and temporality.

I am currently in the process of finishing a book manuscript with the working title Feeling Adrift: The inflation and burst of the emotional-political Egyptian football bubble. The book is based on 20 months of doctoral fieldwork conducted in Cairo between August 2011 and late March 2013, and shorter stints of follow-up research in 2015 and 2016. It traces transformations of football-related emotionality and national subjectivity from the late Mubarak years, when the sport experienced an unprecedented boom, into the period immediately after the 2011 Revolution, when it quickly lost much of its popular appeal. Approaching football as a social assemblage, encompassing clubs, players, fans, state institutions, media infrastructures, pick-up pitches, cafés, stadiums and unpredictable match results, my research examines politically charged emotions and subjects that emerged, transformed and broke down. It suggests that contestations over the subjects and feelings of football were part of an ongoing battle over the Egyptian nation, before as well as after 2011.

In parallel to my book, I am also pursuing a research project that examines how the Egyptian state mobilises sports to shape young men’s ethics, politics and bodies at a handful of state-run ‘youth centres’ (marakiz al-shabab) in Cairo. Drawing on data from multiple fieldwork periods between 2011 and 2016, the project traces conflations between neoliberalism, masculinity, embodiment and temporality during Egypt’s turbulent post-revolutionary years.